The students are laughing because he expressed his fear to their teacher. But the broadcasts everywhere warn disaster is coming. Even his new girlfriend laughs at him.
Racing through New Market, tearing past the merchants who curse him as usual, Bhavin runs home. He rushes inside, upending a metal pot.
“Slow down,” his grandmother says.
“The pandemic is coming,” Bhavin spits out. “It will reach us within days!”
The pandemic is raging from the U.S., sweeping across Europe. The Super Bug. The Death Bug, they’re calling it. Resistant to every antibiotic, worse than the Black Death in the 1300s, the newsmen say. But this is 2016! This shouldn’t be happening.
His grandmother looks grave.
“We’ll leave the city, Nani. I’ll get you out of Kolkata and we’ll go where there are no crowds.”
Finally she speaks. “I’ve been waiting for this day. It was prophesized to me long ago. You will leave. You will escape.”
She reaches up to her shelf for her box he is never to touch. The key around her neck unlocks it. From inside, she pulls a gleaming jewel set in gold. Astonished, Bhavin can’t believe they live in such poverty with that in the house.
“This will take you.”
“We’ll sell it for train fare. We’ll escape.”
She shakes her head. “Only you. It was foretold.” She hugs him longer, tighter than ever before. “Go forth and be fruitful.”
Her words confuse him.
Taking his hand, she places the pendant in his palm, and cups his other hand over it. He would take it to market--
A bird chirps not far away. No other sound.
He stands in a wide, empty street.
He’s never heard such silence.
No one is anywhere. The doorways are empty, the streets desolate. Slipping the jewel into his pocket, he steps forward, moving slower than ever before.
He wanders to New Market, one sheep and two pecking chickens the only other movement. A bent bicycle lies in the road, broken and twisted. Deserted stalls exhibit scattered pots. A rusted taxi with shattered windows and no doors slumbers on its rims. Never has it been so still, so silent. He hears the wind for the first time.
Fast footsteps break the quiet and spins him around. A girl his age charges at him. He braces for her attack.
She jumps at him, embracing him. She sobs, clinging to him in desperation.
“What took you so long?” she cries. “My nani promised you’d come!”
Bhavin takes her arms and pulls her away to look at her.
“What happened? Tell me what you know.”
She holds up a jewel like his. “We’ve been sent from the Pandemic. We alone have escaped.”
“Where is everyone?”
Tilting her head, she is quiet. “Your nani didn’t tell you?”
He shakes his head, fear threatening his composure.
She steps back, touching her palms together and breathing deeply, composed now.
“Namaste. My name is Navya. This is 2060. We are all that’s left.”
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